How are you spending your summer?

Blog photo 7.16.18

Summertime brings a period of more relaxed schedules and an opportunity to take a breath in our hectic fundraising worlds right? Thank goodness!

For many of us, tight deadlines are finally loosened like neckties and “to do” lists become more manageable.

So how are you spending your summer?

I spent time with a few key donors this month since their schedules are also more relaxed now. I want to share what I learned.

1) First, I met with a Board member whose son receives services from the nonprofit I represent. We had a great, fun visit. We discovered we both enjoy iced coffee. Yum! I thanked him for his past giving while providing him a personal update on the organization. What I found out:  He had an important question about services for his son and hadn’t asked until now. He also admitted he didn’t understand many of the acronyms that staff often reference in Board meetings. He and his wife are excited about closing on a beautiful summer home property in early Fall. How I followed up: I connected him with the right person to answer the question about additional services for his son. Then created a cheat sheet of those acronyms he mentioned. I gave him a copy and will including it in future on-boarding materials for Board members. I also will follow up on that beautiful summer home, when the time is right. I will encourage him to donate it as a future auction item. It could easily garner $5,000 which will help provide services for more deserving individuals like his son.

2) Next, I met with a past Board member and enjoyed salads overlooking the Chicago River. Ahhhhh. Yes, there is nothing like Chicago in the summertime! I thanked her for her past giving, provided an update on our services. Then asked for another gift for a specific project we are working on.   What I found out: She has a beautiful condo overlooking Millennium Park, and works from home. But she finds that it can be isolating. She is looking for ways to connect with others. She enjoyed her time on our Board and is still willing to help. She offered to host events at her home or at her club in the city. How I will follow up: Well, she made the gift I asked online. So of course I called to thank her. Yeah!! I also am brainstorming with other staff about how to leverage her offer to host a gathering. Maybe we will plan a small fundraiser this Fall for a select group of donors.

So, make a call, go have lunch or iced coffee with some of your favorite donors! They will likely take the time to meet with you — and it will create a deeper connection to your organization, and likely spark new ideas too.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions


Capital Campaigns…Their Impact on the Annual Fund


As a not for profit organization embarks on a capital campaign, one question often arises….how will this campaign impact the annual fund?  Oftentimes, the Board and Staff leaders have grave concern that a capital campaign will negatively impact the annual fund – which is often the bread and butter of an organization’s fundraising revenue.  I have some reassuring news…and research conducted by various organizations support this fact.  The good news is that, more than not, the annual fund actually increases during the time of a capital campaign!

Why is this?  Well, for one, a savvy development team is well prepared when they ask donors to support a capital campaign.  Often, donors have the option to spread their gifts out across a period of time because gift requests for special campaigns tend to be larger than an annual fund gift.  When the development team asks for a gift to the campaign, it is vitally important to ask for a gift above and beyond the annual support.  A conversation may go like this…

Sally and Tom, your annual fund gift is so critical to our day to day operations.  Today, we are asking for a special gift to support a capital campaign that will have significant impact on our clients.  But, we ask that you consider a gift of $10,000, above and beyond your annual support.  This is a one-time, special gift that will help our organization serve more clients and expand the scope of our services.  As you know, we rely on your continued annual support.  But an additional gift to help us with this capital effort is so critical.  Would you consider a gift of $10,000 for the capital campaign – beyond your generous annual support of $1,500? 

In addition to asking a donor for a gift above and beyond current annual fund giving, a capital campaign often ignites passion for the organization’s mission.  It also helps increase an organization’s visibility, allows you to cultivate and steward existing donors in a way you haven’t before, and attracts new donors to your cause. All of these factors combined contribute to greater success with your annual fund – both during and after your capital campaign.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

People support what they help to create!


I learned from a wonderful mentor early in my career that “if you ask people for money, they will give you advice…….however……if you ask people for advice, they will give you money.” The phrase was even captured in the Pitbull song, Feel this Moment a few years back.

This old adage plays itself out with every non-profit that is contemplating a Capital Campaign.

Engagement is one of the paramount reasons why people give to philanthropic causes and the best way to build engagement is to involve possible investors in the process of dreaming about and creating the vision for your organization.  This played out so clearly in a campaign that I was involved at a local church.

Church leaders were convinced they needed to add capacity to their prayer space.  They wanted to remove a mass in their Sunday schedule and accommodate for the larger congregations that would result because fewer mass options we available.  It was an ambitious project that was going to cost the parish approximately $1.5 – $2 million to achieve.

The strategy was devised by a small number of representatives on their Parish Council so we decided to test it with their parishioners and get their opinions on the vision.

The parish spoke.  Loudly!

The vast amount of parishioners were not in favor of this plan.  Alternatively, a large number of respondents indicated that if such dollars were to be invested in the parish, growing their prayer space was not the priority.  Rather, they wanted a space to congregate before and after mass so they could feel closer to each other and essentially, build their community.

With feedback from the ongoing conversations, an alternative plan was devised to remodel their outdated and often underutilized basement, and to improve access to this remodeled space from the actual prayer space.

Not only did the parishioners play an active role in devising this updated plan, they supported it with their dollars.  After all, it was THEIR plan, they were willing to invest THEIR money in seeing THEIR dreams come to fruition.

And the plan worked. Two years after the campaign was initiated, the space was dedicated and is in use to this day.

My Italian grandma always used to say, “You have two ears and one mouth, use them proportionately.”

While we can always be better at following this sound advice, the above-mentioned anecdote is a perfect example of why, when you are contemplating a campaign, it is so crucial to ASK your investors what they are willing to invest in.  Your dreams and personal aspirations may need to be altered from time to time, but it is well worth the adaptations given supporters are far more likely to invest in projects that they create!

by: Michael Bruni, Partner, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Major Gift Work Ahead!

Work Ahead

I have been working with a not for profit client that wanted to have a more robust major gift program. This organization has been busy doing the basics…hosting a few fundraising events, orchestrating several mail appeals, writing some grants and also managing some marketing and social media efforts. It’s a rather modest-sized shop and the development folks wear a lot of hats…which is not unusual for many smaller social service agencies.

While managing the basics, donor stewardship and major gift work had been put on the back burner. The agency decided it was time to outsource grant writing, which freed up a bit of time of the staff so they can spend some more time with their donors. The organization had some donors that make annual major gifts (for this organization a major gift is $2,500 and above) but the development staff had not spent much time cultivating or stewarding these donors.

To begin our major gift effort, one of our first steps was to set up some visits with some long standing key donors. There had been a change in leadership for the organization as well and this provided a perfect entree to get some appointments.

Our first visit was with a woman who was a former board member who continued to make annual gifts, yet no one on the team really knew her very well.  We met with this donor and she was thrilled to share with us all that she experienced as a volunteer leader. We learned a lot about the history of the agency during her time as a volunteer and we were able to share with her some exciting new initiatives that were being planned. We learned a lot about this donor and what she likes to support because we did one important thing during our visit…we talked less and listened more.

When our visit was coming to a close, this donor told us how much she appreciated our time and that while she always had a special place in her heart for this organization, she felt more engaged. She also shared that as a donor, she does not like to be ignored. She wants to hear more from the agency and wants to know her investments are making a difference.

This visit with this donor was the first of many stewardship touch points across the past two years. She received face to face visits, but, she also received notes from the staff or the board about key wins.  She was mailed a newspaper article that featured a success story of a client that was served at the agency.  She was invited to serve on a president’s council, a select group of special friends that had the ear of the leader of the agency.

Recently, this donor made a gift to support a new program and has doubled her annual giving. She is one example of those individuals that have further engaged with the mission because of our time and energy in working with individual donors. My message today is simple…take the time to get to know your donors. Make time each week to set appointments for face time with your donors. It will pay off…that’s a promise!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Engaging Your Older Donors


Your list of top prospects almost certainly includes a number of donors who are of retirement age.  And it’s a foregone conclusion that you should have a detailed plan for each person to ask them for their annual gift, a major multi-year gift, and a legacy gift.  But we also know that retired people can lose the feeling of being engaged, vital, and active.  Most likely their phone has stopped ringing, the invitations have declined, and interest in their professional accomplishments has waned.

Here are a few ideas about strategies to meaningfully engage your older prospects:

  • Ask for their time, and give them your time. Seniors have more time than working people.  Plan on spending time with them.  Invite them to lunch or to dinner.  Invite their spouse too, as appropriate.
  • Give them your attention. Listen to their ideas about your organization.  Invite them to tell their story about their professional life and their involvement with your charity.  Find out as much as you can about their commitment, their passion, and their priorities for your organization.
  • Consider them for an active role. Feel them out for an advisory board, a committee, or a short-term project task force.  Remember that they are retired, not dead!  Let them know that you need their support and engage them in a conversation about what that might look like.  This kind of engagement is especially meaningful if you can draw on the expertise they earned in their professional life, such as asking a retired lawyer to serve on your planned giving advisory council.
  • Ask them to connect you with others. Their contacts can be of value to your charity.  Think about whether it might be right to ask them to host an event at their home or their club, and use the occasion to broaden your network of support.  Donors with a home in Florida or Arizona might open their home to your organization in the winter months!  Bring your CEO and get on a plane to tell your story to a new population, and enjoy time with your senior prospects in their happy place.
  • Pay special attention to how your thank them. Thank your retired donors in multiple ways.  Send a handwritten note; send flowers or appropriate gift.  Call them and talk about what a nice time you had when you got together.  Share some photos if you have them.

Give your senior prospects special attention.  You’ll enjoy it as much as they will, and your charity will benefit in ways you cannot imagine.

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Are You Engaging?


I was presenting to the Board of Directors for one of my clients last week and the takeaway for the Board members was “engagement”.  Later in the week, I was with a different client, one which is preparing for a campaign.  The highlight of that conversation?  Engagement.  So…how are you engaging with your constituents?

Whether they are Board members, donors, volunteers, staff members, even clients or program participants, identifying ways in which to truly and authentically engage with your constituents is critical to the success of your organization.  While I am confident you know how to do this, here are some questions for you to consider asking next time you are engaged with someone close to your organization.

  • How did you get introduced to (agency name)?
  • Why do you choose to spend your time working with/volunteering for (agency name)?
  • What does (agency name) mean to you?
  • Tell me your (agency name) story.
  • What is your favorite (agency name) story?
  • How has (agency name) impacted you or someone you know?

These questions are great conversation starters.  Even if you have heard a story before, you may learn something new about that person.  And, by being a good listener, you will remind that person of the importance of your organization’s mission, thus increasing their level of engagement and commitment.  Make it a point to ask at least one person a question about their relationship with your organization this week.  Have fun!

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Keeping your donors engaged and inspired


As of this writing, we have only experienced 2018 for just a few short weeks, and yet, much has transpired in the world. We’ve seen more controversy in US politics, feel deeply saddened about all that our Olympic women’s gymnastics team members have endured, and, watched, cried and prayed for all those that have been affected by the catastrophic mud slides in California. Yet, while there is much in the news and our world to be concerned about, there are also good things happening.

The stories of the survivors of the natural disasters in California and the heroic tales of those that work to make sure that people and their pets that are rescued and returned to their families. The images of the marches and movements all across our country that show that Americans – men and women – have the freedom to share their voices and stand their ground on whatever issues they feel are important. The Olympic athletes that will continue to pursue their dreams in spite of what they have endured…to bravely carry on.

I think about all of these things in our news and in our world and I know that many of the not for profit agencies in which we work help people to be their best. Perhaps we work for a community mental health agency that can provide the counseling needed to help those that have experienced sexual assault or abuse. Maybe it’s an organization that works as a think tank to produce ideas about different ways of doing things – things like health care delivery, immigration policies, education and other important ideals that are critical to all of us. Or, an agency that provides relief when disaster strikes.

WE are critical in this picture because we help raise the money to support these important missions that impact the lives of many. It’s our job to work hard every day to connect new donors and to maintain and enhance the relationships with current friends so that our missions remain strong to do the important work the organization intends to carry out. It’s up to us and our teams to ensure our current donors are kept in the loop so that they feel a part of our vision. It’s also our job to engage new folks by sharing our story in a way that resonates with them so that they too, want to become more involved.

As we move into 2018, develop a simple plan to keep your key donors engaged and new donors energized about your mission. Every month, determine which donors need to hear from you in person…who can you send an email or a stewardship report to that highlights some wins or key objectives that you plan to tackle in 2018.

For new donors, what is your plan to keep them engaged and involved? What news can you share? Do you have photos to share that can showcase first-hand how your programs help people in need? By developing a systematic stewardship plan, you will stay on track to ensure that your pool of donors are there, right by your side. Give them the reasons that they want to roll up their sleeves to help people that you serve or the policies that you are trying to change to reflect our very best for the world.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Making Connections


Have you heard that the secret to success lies in the very thing you’re avoiding? I’ve found this to be true and it applies to our personal lives as well as the development process.

Often our clients hesitate to pick up the phone and connect with their donors. “Oh, I’ll see them next month, or maybe I’ll just send an email instead. After all, they’re busy.” But that’s not creating true intimacy – and I don’t mean the type of intimacy that happens under the mistletoe. I mean intimacy of really talking with someone and making a connection.

So here are some thoughts that may help when you find yourself feeling so far out of your comfort zone that you reach for the safety of a computer mouse instead of reaching out in a personal way to really connect with your donors:

  1. You have 2 ears and one mouth use them accordingly –So many times, we listen with the purpose of determining what our response will be rather than truly hearing the person. This puts a lot of pressure on us. What will we talk about? What will I say? But the fact is that good conversationalists are actually good listeners, not good talkers. In fact, the 80/20 rule dictates that good communication is about spending a majority of your time listening and minority of your time talking.
  2. Ask “power” questions. These are open ended questions that are relevant for your organization. Some examples include, “How did you first get involved with…..” “What are your thoughts about how we are doing….” “Is there anything else we should know about ……” Good conversationalists ask relevant, thoughtful questions and then really listen to the responses.
  3. When you ask for money, you are not asking for yourself. Everyone can feel awkward asking for someone’s time or financial support. We don’t want to appear that we always have our hands out. But we need to remember that we are not asking for us. We are asking for others. We all raise money for important missions that help others who may be less fortunate. Keep their faces in mind when you ask.  You are their advocate.

So I challenge you to start today. Make three connections this week that you otherwise might just avoid.  All you really need to start with is “Happy Holidays, I was thinking of you.”

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Are Your Letting Donors Kick the Tires?


Think back to the last time you bought a car. Was it from a dealership, or the used car lot down the street? You probably took it for a test drive – and had an opportunity to “kick the tires” as my dad used to say.

These steps are important. We want to inspect our new investment and make sure it meets expectations before making a big commitment.

But, are we providing this same opportunity to donors of our organizations?

One of my client’s was struggling with this.  We found it difficult to share the mission of this organization with donors unless it was through videos or photos.  These 3rd party vehicles are “OK” but not ideal. So we created a different approach and put the donor in the driver’s seat.

We invited donors to a special art class just for them that was sprinkled with a few of the agency’s clients for a meet and greet. This was the same type of programming our clients were involved with each week.

We filled the room with new donors and donor prospects. We didn’t charge them and provided light snacks. They were led by our instructor and learned how professional and well run the class was. They observed how each person’s experience was unique and tailored to them. This fun, low pressure introduction laid the groundwork for developing these relationships further and opened the door to conversations about future giving.

Could this experience be replicated at your organization?

For educators, could your donors get reserved seats to a graduation ceremony? For nonprofits focused on literacy, could donor attend a book presentation ceremony for students? For health organizations, could your donors visit one of your doctors for their annual check-up?

Think for a minute about what your donor might respond to and give them that opportunity.  After all, we are asking for them to invest in us. We should give them an opportunity to kick the tires, shouldn’t we?

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

What are your SWOTs???


Early on in my career I received some good advice. My supervisor asked me to put together a Development Plan for the new fiscal year. Being new to the organization, I asked where the plan from the previous year was located.

Why? She asked.

Well, so I know where to start, I replied.

She told me she wanted to start with a SWOT analysis. At the next Development Committee meeting we took time to get feedback from our trusted volunteers. They shared what they thought were the organization’s Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. We shared our own insights as staff.

From that conversation, the Development Plan was born. It wasn’t a “save as” document where fiscal years were updated but strategies remained the same.

Instead a variety of new topics emerged and rose to the top. Even  better, we involved our volunteers in the process. They shared openly and had buy in with the ideas.

This was a valuable lesson and one I hope you will implement.

Our team steered the activities of the organization over the next year in a creative way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. We realized the need for new committee members, the need for a second appeal letter, and implemented a strategy to increase online giving.

So next time are planning for your organization take time to do a SWOT analysis first. It’s time well spent.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions